Dinosaur Flatulence Caused Jurassic Climate Change

By Jamie Condliffe on at

A lot of dinosaurs were big eating machines. Now, scientists have calculated how much gas they would have expelled as a result of their digestion—and the quantities they produced probably meant that they warmed their own climate through letting rip.

Scientists from Liverpool John Moore's University have calculated the methane output of sauropods—the dinosaur family which includes the species known as Brontosaurus—by comparing their digestive system to that of cows. The results predict that the world's population of dinosaurs would have produced around 520 million tonnes of methane annually. The research is published in Current Biology.

Sauropods were massive land animals that grazed on vegetation—but it's the microscopic organisms living inside them that were responsible for the gas. David Wilkinson, one of the researchers, explains to the BBC:

"Although it's the dinosaur element that captures the popular imagination with this work, actually it is the microbes living in the dinosaurs guts that are making the methane... Cows today produce something like 50-100 [million tonnes] per year. Our best estimate for Sauropods is around 520 [million tonnes]."

Compare that to current levels of methane output—which total around 500 million tonnes a year—and the researchers believe that the gas had a significant affect on the warming of the planet. [Current Biology via BBC]

Image by jerryr924 under Creative Commons license